City, activists work on solution for wastewater facility location

The Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy will make a presentation Dec. 16 to a firm that will conduct a study to find where the best location would be for a wastewater treatment facility.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

Signs of tension have dimmed among Malibu’s major political activists as city officials have encouraged their traditional political opponents to give their input on the best place in Malibu for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility.

Encouraged by Mayor Sharon Barovsky and Councilmember Ken Kearsley, Steve Uhring and Ozzie Silna’s Malibu Coastal Land Conservancy on Dec. 16 will make a presentation on alternative sites for a wastewater facility to Questa, the engineering firm hired by the city to conduct a study on where the best location would be for such a facility. Barovsky and Kearsley made the suggestion to Silna and Uhring on Sunday at a private meeting with former Planning Commissioner Richard Carrigan in attendance.

With the passage of Measure S last month, Malibu will be obtaining $25 million in bond money to be used for purchasing land in join ventures with Santa Monica College. The college wants some of that money to be used for creating an educational facility in Malibu and ball fields. The city also desires to build a wastewater treatment facility on land purchased with the bond money, to help clean up Malibu’s polluted watershed. The common suggestion has been that the facility should be built on the Chili Cook-Off site, the 20-acre property owned by Malibu Bay Co. that stretches along Pacific Coast Highway from Cross Creek Road to Webb Way. Malibu Bay has offered to sell the property for $25 million. But with three other landowners willing to sell their properties, Uhring said there are other possibilities.

“There may be some other options that exist out there,” Uhring said. “You’ve got Yamaguchi willing to sell. You’ve also got Pepperdine. We want to make sure everything is on the table.”

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The Yamaguchi Family Trust has offered to sell its 17 acres of Civic Center properties for $20 million, while Pepperdine University sent a letter to Silna recently stating it would “entertain offers to sell” its 9.2-acre property located behind the old City Hall building on Civic Center Way “in the $11 million range.” Additionally, the Crummer property, located next to Malibu Bluffs Park, has been put on the market for $26 million. That site has long been desired by the city for the relocation of ball fields.

Although he acknowledges a wastewater facility is necessary, Silna has said he would prefer it not be built on the Chili Cook-Off site because it would destroy the possibility of his dream for the property to be transformed into a wetlands area. Barovsky responded to Silna’s statement about this in the Nov. 11 issue of The Malibu Times by questioning whether Silna was bothering to consider what the rest of the community wanted. The two traditional political opponents formed an uneasy alliance to get Measure S passed, but have exchanged jabs over what to do with the bond money. Sunday’s meeting may have been a chance to ease the tension.

Uhring said the purpose of MCLC’s presentation on Dec. 16 would be to make sure Questa considers all the options. He said he is obtaining information from the various local environmental groups for the presentation. Uhring added that if Questa determines the Chili Cook-Off site is the only logical place for a wastewater facility, he could accept that.

“Nobody on our side claims to be an environmental expert,” Uhring said. “At this point, it makes sense to listen to the experts.”

Following the Dec. 16 hearing, Questa will take comments received from MCLC and other community members and begin its research. This information will later be compiled into a report. But Questa’s study will be limited to the science of the matter, nothing about finance or political strategy of municipal land acquisition will be included.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Christi Hogin and Malibu Bay attorney Dick Volpert continue to meet behind the scenes regarding the city’s potential purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. Although a term sheet was sent to the city in August, Hogin said discussions are ongoing to form an updated term sheet. Hogin announced at the Nov. 22 City Council meeting that one of Malibu Bay’s new demands is that if the city bought the property, it could not in turn sell its three buildings: Coldwell Banker, Malibu Lumber and Malibu Animal Hospital. Volpert declined to comment on the matter.

If the city wishes to purchase some or all of the various lands that are for sale, it will need much more than the $25 million generated from the bond. After Questa issues its report, Barovsky and Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern will go to Sacramento seeking clean water grant money. Also, Silna told The Malibu Times last month that he would try to gather as much as $10 million in private donations to help in the municipal purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. Additionally, the city has been negotiating for several years with the California Department of Parks and Recreation about various land swapping deals so it can obtain the Crummer property.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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